Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives passed sports betting legislation that will make it legal for individuals in Illinois to bet on sporting events that are taking place around the world. The bill, which Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign, will drastically expand legal gambling in Illinois. Once Pritzker signs the bill into law, it is unclear how long it will take to implement. It is clear, however, that the state will benefit monetarily from the droves of Illinois residents that will jump at the opportunity to legally bet on a Chicago Bears football game. While revenue from the legalized sports gambling bill will likely generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state in the first year, it may not have the same positive impact on divorcing couples.
In divorce proceedings, dissipation refers to the use of marital property for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. For dissipation to occur: (1) the party’s use of marital property must be for that party’s sole personal benefit; and (2) the use of the marital property must take place after the marriage is irretrievably broken. When a Court finds that dissipation has occurred, the dissipation is treated as an advance distribution to the party who dissipated the assets.
Gambling is a common form of dissipation. In considering whether gambling losses constitute dissipation, a multitude of factors may be considered. For instance, if the party’s gambling habit was prevalent during the marriage, the Court may find that the aggrieved party condoned or excused the action and should share in the loss. Also, the Court may find that only those gambling losses that occurred 3 years after the party claiming dissipation knew or should have known of the dissipation, but in no event prior to 5 years before the divorce was filed should be counted as dissipation. The extent of the gambling losses must also be taken into account. If the gambling losses are largely offset by a party’s gambling winnings, the Court may find that the losses do not rise to the level of wasteful and excessive. Since the party alleging dissipation must file a notice providing a date or period of time during which the marriage began undergoing an irretrievable breakdown, an identification of the property dissipated, and a date or period of time during which the dissipation occurred, a party to divorce should assess all of the facts to confirm that the potential reward outweighs the costs associated with pursuing a dissipation claim.
By January of 2020, it is estimated that Illinois residents will be able to legally gamble on sports from the comfort of their own home. With this level of convenience comes the realization that it will be easier than ever to lose money gambling. Parties going through divorce proceedings should be cognizant of the fact that gambling losses will very likely give rise to a dissipation claim.